Sweetwater Canyon bull elk near South Pass photographed by G&F’s Lander Wildlife Biologist Stan Harter.
(Lander, Wyo.) – As the weather changes, many big game animals leave their summer and fall ranges for traditional wintering areas, which the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said poses a hazard to the motoring public.
Migration routes often lead animals into conflict with motorists as they cross highways on the way to these areas. In addition, big game animals are often drawn to areas along roadways to seek better forage that results from road runoff moisture, and areas recently seeded after construction. Motorists are urged to be on the lookout at all times as animals may be on the move, but it is the dusk to dawn period when animals are most active.
Two local areas of high wildlife traffic are Wyoming Highway 28 between Lander and South Pass and Wyoming Highway 26/287 between Crowheart and Dubois. These areas have consistently seen large losses of big game animals and increased wildlife collisions in the fall.
“Deer, elk, moose, and pronghorn are very active right now with recent storms forcing them to lower elevations and breeding season starting for deer. Some traditional ‘hot spots’ for big game crossings are the Red Canyon/South Pass and Beaver Rim areas, but animals could be encountered on almost any stretch of highway in Wyoming.” said Lander Wildlife Biologist Stan Harter. “We are very concerned about public safety and ask motorists to do everything they can to avoid collisions with wildlife.”
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department advises people to be aware of roadside surroundings. When motorists spot animals near highways, they should assume the animals will move onto the roadway.
Following a few simple steps can prevent many wildlife collisions:
- Slow down.
- Expect wildlife and scan the sides of the roads.
- Use headlights and stay alert while driving at dusk, dawn and at night.
- If you see one elk, deer, or antelope by the road, expect there to be more nearby.
- If an animal is on the road, expect the unexpected. They do not instinctively know how to react to your car.
- If you encounter an animal crossing the road, switch your headlights to low beam so that they are not blinded and can move out of your way.
- Give the animal time and room to move off the road. Do not try to outrun it.
- If you see a wildlife-crossing sign, pay attention. It is there for a reason.
- Do not swerve to miss an animal. Steer toward the animal’s hindquarters, as they most often will move forward.
Nationwide, more than 150 people are killed and 29,000 injured each year in animal/vehicle collisions. If you see an injured deer, call the nearest Game and Fish office with specific information about the location (road, mile-marker, etc.).